Escritório Regional da FAO para a América Latina e o Caribe

New FAO training focuses on strengthening Caribbean aquaponic value chains

Workshop seeks to enhance aquaculture systems for improved food production and related livelihoods

6 December, 2018 (Bridgetown, Barbados) – Helping Caribbean aquaponics farmers to learn and use efficient business practices that can increase their market access and support more sustainable food production in the region is the focus of an upcoming workshop by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with regional governments and private sector organizations.

Under the official name, “Advancing aquaponics through improved market access: Towards a Caribbean Blue Revolution”, the four-day training aims to strengthen the contribution of aquaponics systems in regional and national food security and nutrition.

“In the face of unprecedented global challenges, actors from all sectors will need to work together, and building synergies among aquaculture, crop production, connecting consumers and producers, developing more inclusive value chains all while enhancing climate change resilience are of crucial importance to building a Blue Economy. Aquaponics is one puzzle piece in the ongoing Blue Revolution, so it is not only important for Barbados, but also for all other Small Island Developing States,” encourages the Honourable Kirk Humphrey, Minister of Marine Affairs and Blue Economy in Barbados.

The event will begin at 8:30am on Tuesday, 11 December and end on the afternoon of Friday, 14 December. The training will take place primarily at United Nations House in Bridgetown, and will include a field trip on the morning of Thursday, 13 December to Adams Aquafarms in St. Thomas parish.

The opening session of the training will feature welcome remarks by Dr Lystra Fletcher-Paul, FAO Subregional Coordinator for the Caribbean. During the opening, Dr Jose Fernandez-Polanco, a leading expert in global seafood consumption and marketing from the University of Cantabria (Spain), will deliver an introduction to food systems. Mr Austin Stankus, Aquaponics and Biocomposting Specialist at FAO, will also provide participants with an overview of aquaponics through a discussion on opportunities and constraints in the region. Media are invited to attend the opening session. 

The event will include over 20 participants, including farmers from Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago. They will be joined by fisheries and agricultural experts from their respective governments.  Representatives from the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) will also participate.

“A key objective of the workshop is to strengthen the ability of aquaponics farmers to identify and assess market opportunities, understand market requirements and learn how to tap into those opportunities for better market access. By taking this value chain approach, we can help them to increase their livelihoods and improve sustainable food and nutrition security in the region,” said Dr Yvette Diei Ouadi, FAO Fisheries Officer for the Caribbean.

Through sessions with value chain stakeholders, participating farmers will have the opportunity to learn first-hand about market demands, food safety requirements and business planning best practices. These interactive sessions will include discussions with retailers (Massy Stores), restaurants (Lemongrass Grill), large-scale farms (PEG Farms), as well existing aquaponic farmers such as Adams Aqualife. Other participating stakeholders include Solanum, a regionally-active consulting firm with expertise in small-scale aquaponics.   

“This training will provide participants with the principles of value chain constraints and leverage points will be discussed to initiate groundwork towards an industry platform. As a result, participants will improve their ability to operate aquaponic businesses, identify and exploit markets, and engage with other members of the value chain,” explained Mr Stankus.

“Aquaponics farming is an ideal system for many Small Island Developing States that suffer from fresh water scarcity and limited land availability, as it can use up to 90% less water than traditional irrigation systems and can produce crops intensively on a small land area. In addition, aquaponics is an innovative agricultural practice of interest to youth and has the potential of engaging more young men and women into the agricultural sector. Finally, scaling-up and increasing access to aquaponics farming in the Caribbean has great opportunities not only for income generation and increased food security, but also to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change and help increase farm resilience," said Mrs Anne Desrochers, Director of Agriculture and Rural Development, Solanum Consulting.

The ”Advancing aquaponics through improved market access: Towards a Caribbean Blue Revolution” training is provided through two FAO projects: Towards a Caribbean Blue Revolution, and Climate Change Adaptation in the Eastern Caribbean fisheries sector project (CC4FISH). Both projects have components dedicated to supporting sustainable aquaculture development and aquaculture value chains in beneficiary countries.

Background on Aquaponics:

Aquaponics is an emerging technology that supports integrated aquaculture and vegetable production.

Through aquaponics farming, nutrient rich aquaculture water is recirculated through standard hydroponic growing beds. All of the nutrients required by the plants are supplied through the fish wastes, thereby eliminating the need for fertilizer. The plants clean the water for the fish, thereby eliminating the need for water exchanges.

Aquaponics is a labour-saving technique, saving traditional agriculture work such as ploughing, tilling and digging, and is therefore appropriate for all genders and many age groups. In addition, aquaponic systems can be located inside the home thereby providing a secure means of income generation and nutritional security.

With aquaponics, individual farmers and cooperatives are able to improve their diets through the addition of nutritious fruits and vegetables rich in micronutrients and essential minerals, as well as fish which are an important source of protein. Beyond improving diets, aquaponics offers an opportunity for income generating activities. Further, it can be conducted with limited space and without any arable land, making this technology appealing for urban and peri-urban agriculture, even finding success on rooftops, balconies and degraded land parcels.

Aquaponics is a way to grow high-value crops intensively. However, access to markets willing to pay premium prices for high quality crops is necessary. Aquaponics has relatively high construction and operating costs. Without access and leverage in the markets, these costs cannot be recuperated, and the aquaponic venture may not become profitable. Therefore, strengthening the value chain around aquaponics is the key objective of this workshop as we continue to strive Towards a Caribbean Blue Revolution.